A solar-powered, zero-emission riverboat service along the River Derwent in Derby has launched its eagerly awaited passenger service, offering a new perspective on the city’s world-class industrial heritage.
The fully accessible, electrically powered passenger cruiser – which has been designed and built with disabled access and the environment front-and-centre – has opened-up a stretch of river that has not been navigable to vessels of this size for more than 100 years.
While trips on the state-of-the-art riverboat launched on 21 August, the service is operating each Sunday until 25 September 2022 – and has already proved so popular that all tickets have been sold for this initial launch service.
But more scheduled sailings are to be added in the future and the new service is set to run from spring to autumn from 2023, taking 12 passengers at a time on a 50-minute return trip up the river, from the Silk Mill to Darley Abbey.
As well as listening to an audio commentary from acting legend Sir David Suchet, passengers can take part in on-board family activities – including a chance to see, and even steer, Artemis a remote-controlled boat for collecting river plastic pollution, designed by Derby-based Rolls-Royce trainees.
Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust’s new craft, Outram – a traditionally built steel hulled narrowboat designed to carry 12 passengers and crew – offers scenic tours through the city and the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS).
Stretching 15 miles from Derby to Matlock Bath, the WHS contains a fascinating series of historic mill complexes, with one of the site’s most significant being The Silk Mill in Derby, now home to the award-winning Museum of Making, which opened in September 2021 after a multi-million-pound transformation. The new passenger service will cover around a two mile stretch of the picturesque river, between the Museum and Darley Abbey.
Named the Outram after Derbyshire engineer, Benjamin Outram, who built the Derby Canal, the boat has been designed from scratch to make it as environmentally friendly as possible, as well as accessible to all.
It runs on electric power – with batteries recharged from solar panels and topped up by a fast landline charger and provides a composting toilet. Traditionally narrowboats are less than seven feet wide, which would not allow wheelchair access, so another 18 inches was added to the width, along with a wheelchair lift and disabled toilet.
While currently using a temporary boarding platform, which does require access via a ladder, Derby City Council are working with the Canal Trust to have the permanent pontoon installed in the autumn, which will then provide full disabled access.
Crewed by fully trained volunteers from the Trust, passengers can choose between indoor and outdoor seating areas, and there is also a mini café, and shop, while among on board activities for children are interactive displays, activity packs and colouring sheets
Tickets cost £7 adults, £6 children (under 16) and £18 for a family, with under threes free, and will be bookable at https://bit.ly/3AiNPqA
For tourist information about Derby, see www.visitderby.co.uk